Month: September 2017

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline of Edinburgh from atop the massive Castle Rock.  Few of the present buildings existed before the 16th century, except St. Margaret’s Chapel from the 12th century, which is regarded as the oldest building in Edinburgh.  The fortress is a collection of buildings and served as a royal residence until 1633.  The buildings include the Royal Palace and Great Hall, the Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum of Scotland, and several regimental museums.  Every day, except Sunday and some Holidays, since 1861, the One o’clock Gun has been fired to allow the ships in the Firth of Forth to set their maritime clocks.

The view from the Castle is amazing!  You can look out past Prince’s Gardens and the buildings of New Town and see the Firth of Forth.  Photos can’t do justice to the spectacular scenery in all directions.  Unfortunately, the day we visited was cloudy and slightly hazy with the rain beginning just as we left.

Castle Entrance
St. Margaret’s Chapel
St. Margaret’s Chapel
Governor’s House

 

Buddy at One O’Clock Gun
Chapel Altar
Chapel
Edinburgh Castle

 

Edinburgh Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

View of New Town and Firth of Forth
View of Waverly Station, Balmoral Hotel and Calton Hill

 

Prince’s Gardens and New Town
Soldiers” Dogs Graves
View from the Top
Regimental Museum
Castle from Prince’s Street

Edinburgh Neighborhood

As we board the train to Durham tomorrow, we will say goodbye to Edinburgh.  We have thoroughly enjoyed the city and our neighborhood.  Many of you have expressed an interest in seeing where we’ve been living during the month of September.  Our Air BnB apartment was near the Royal Botanic Garden.  The two-bedroom apartment was perfect for our needs.  You can view the interior by going on Air BnB.  It’s described as “2 Bedroom Flat with a lovely view”.  It looked out over the Warriston playing fields, which were filled with young soccer players every Saturday morning.  We had a great view of Calton Hill and its unfinished National Monument.  The monument was intended to be another Parthenon, but work was stopped in 1829 for lack of money. Three major bus routes stopped at the Botanic Gardens less than a block from our apartment.  We purchased bus passes and could travel all over Edinburgh within a few minutes.  A short walk to the local Tesco provided a variety of snacks and groceries.

Our neighborhood offered an eclectic mix of nearby restaurants.  Among our favorites were the local Pub, Orchard’s Bar; DiGiorgio, a tiny Italian place with lots of atmosphere and great food; Loon Fung, a Chinese restaurant run by a man from Hong Kong and his wife; and Hector’s in Stockbridge, our favorite place for Sunday Roast (we loved the lamb and Yorkshire pudding). We shopped the Sunday market in Stockbridge and purchased home-made conserve from one of the vendors and a delicious chicken liver pate from another.

The Scot’s aren’t particularly jovial, but we found them friendly and courteous and usually efficient.  The city of Edinburgh offers the best of both worlds, an historic medieval Old Town, and a bustling modern New Town filled with interesting shops and upscale stores.  Our favorite store was Jenner’s, a Scottish version of Nordstrom with loads of atmosphere, located right on Prince’s Street.  Boots Pharmacy, the Scottish version of CVS, carried many of the same brands we find in the U.S.  I bought a new rain jacket at The North Face and a nice winter coat at Barbour on Frederick Street.  Buddy is wearing new boots from Jenner’s.  We weren’t tempted to shop for too much since our luggage space is limited.

Orchard’s Bar
View from Apartment

 

Saturday Soccer

 

 

 

 

 

Hectors in Stockbridge
Light Blue Door and Windows on 2nd Floor

DiGiorgios Interior

 

Inverness and Culloden Battlefield

We got up early and arrived at Waverly Station at 7:30am for our first experience using our Brit Rail passes.  All went well and we waited in the First-Class lounge for our train to arrive.  Boarding the train was very hectic since the departure platform was only posted a few minutes before the train was scheduled to leave.  We were on board and in our seats when Buddy discovered he had left his glasses in the lounge.  He decided to get off and search for them while I continued the journey.  Unfortunately, he got back to the lounge and the glasses were gone.  No one had seen them or turned them in.  He had to go order new glasses.

The weather was slightly foggy, as the train left Edinburgh.  The rail bridge over the Firth of Forth was voted Scotland’s greatest man-made wonder in 2016 and offered a spectacular view of the Firth.  The three-and-a-half-hour trip was uneventful with gorgeous scenery, especially in the area north of Pitlorchy and as we neared Inverness.  Inverness felt very small town after spending so much time in Edinburgh.

I finally found the bus to Culloden Battlefield after a walk around the bus station only to learn that the bus I wanted stops at the Post Office.  The #2 bus said Culloden, but the driver said the #5 bus that said Balloch was the one that takes you to the battlefield.  It always pays to ask.  I paid my 4 pounds and 10 pence for the round trip and settled back for the 25-minute ride.

The Culloden Battlefield Museum is an impressive ultra-contemporary building.  The exhibits were very well done and I opted to pass up the surround cinema.  My sensitive ear wouldn’t tolerate the loud sounds of the hand-to-hand combat.  I walked the Battlefield site taking photos of the Old Leanach cottage, the memorial stone tower, and the stone marking the site of the Fraser clan burial.  As I stood on the windswept moor, I couldn’t imagine it as an ideal site for a battle.  None of the paintings I had seen depicting the battle reflected the actual topography of the site.  The knee-high heather and brambles would have presented a challenge to just walk through.  I can’t deny that the site has an aura about it that is difficult to ignore even after all these years.  The Battle of Culloden saw over 1,200 dead within an hour on that fateful day in April 1746.  The short, bloody battle was the last to be fought on British soil.

I would have preferred to spend more time in Inverness to visit the Castle and the Cathedral, but after the walk through the Battlefield, I was ready to head back. The weather had cleared and the return train trip offered beautiful views all the way to Edinburgh.

 

Visitor Center
Leanach Cottage
Leanach Cottage
Memorial Tower
Memorial Plaque
Fraser Clan Stone
Mixed Clans Stone
MacGillivray Clan Chief Stone
Red Flag for Duke of Cumberland Line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battlefield View
Battlefield View
English Stone

 

Royal Yacht Britannia

Finding a bus to take us to the site of the Royal Yacht was a challenge.  Since none of the buses that stop near our apartment go anywhere near the Ocean Terminal, where the Yacht is docked, we decided to take a city tour on one of the Majestic buses.  The thirty-minute tour makes 12 stops and you can hop off and on at your leisure.  The buses run every 15 minutes so, this is a good way to see Edinburgh.  We were fortunate to get front seats on the upper level.

The Royal Yacht Britannia was a self-guided tour, so we had lots of time to view the things we found interesting.  We were struck by the simplicity and lack of grandeur in the accommodations and furnishings.  The “Royals” aren’t ones for vulgar displays of wealth and that was apparent in their personal rooms.  The entire exhibit was well done and provided a detailed history of the years (1954-1997) the Yacht was in service.

Upon completion of the tour, we took time to visit some of the shops in the Ocean Terminal mall.  The mall is the only enclosed mall we have found during our time in Edinburgh.  The shops were comparable to those you find in similar malls in the U.S.  We noticed a large multi-screen cinema on the third level and decided to return to see The American Assassin since we both enjoyed the Vince Flynn book.  We boarded the next Majestic bus and finished our city tour.

 

Buddy Enjoying the Tour
Buddy on Deck
View from the Deck
The Bow
Tender
Royal Sailboat
Ship’s Bell
The latest technology??
Formal Dining Room
Guest Lounge
Royal Yacht Guest Lounge

 

Royal Botanic Garden

During my first two days in Edinburgh, while waiting for my travel companion to arrive, I visited the beautiful 70 plus-acre Royal Botanic Garden.  The east entrance to the Garden is a short walk from our apartment and admission is free.  On my first visit, I explored the Rock Garden and made my way to the John Hope Gateway restaurant near the west entrance for lunch.  My Salad Nicoise wasn’t the best I’ve had, but the presentation was interesting.  I then strolled back to the east entrance, making photos along the way.

The next day was Saturday and there were a lot more visitors, several with young children in tow.  This time, I purchased a ticket for the 10 magnificent Glass houses.  The environment inside was so steamy that I had to continually wipe the fog off my camera lens.  The Glass houses contain over 3,000 exotic plants, so I spent well over an hour inside.  I wandered over to the pond and watched the resident ducks for a while before starting home, pausing to photograph the interesting Monkey Puzzle Trees along the way.  What a delightful way to spend a Saturday morning!  I envy the Edinburgh residents, who can enjoy the Garden year around.

Palm House
Glass Houses Entrance
Rock Garden
Botanic Garden
Dahlia
Botanic Garden
Anthurium
Water Lily
Botanic Garden
Water Lily
Botanic Garden
Koi
Koi
Botanic Garden
Botanic Garden
Botanic Garden
Botanic Garden
Botanic Garden
Botanic Garden
Botanic Garden
Botanic Garden
Botanic Garden
Anthurium
Botanic Garden
Botanic Garden
Botanic Garden
Botanic Garden
Ducks on Pond
Monkey Puzzle Tree

 

St. Giles Cathedral and John Knox House

St. Giles Cathedral, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh is located on the Royal Mile midway between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.  The cathedral is the principal place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh.  A short walk down the street is the House of John Knox, a minister, theologian, and writer, who was the founder of the Presbyterian faith.  Presbyterianism became the state religion of Scotland in 1560.   John Knox died in 1572 and is buried in St. Giles.

A tour of the small John Knox House dating back to 1470 was very interesting.  On display were several very old texts.  One of the texts was John Knox’s History of the Reformation (London 1644).  Book four of Knox’s History contains his account of his first meeting with Mary Queen of Scots.

In 1556, during John Knox’s exile, James Mossman, founder of the Goldsmith’s Guild, and his wife acquired the house.  Mossman’s tools are on display in the house.  Mossman was a supporter of Mary Queen of Scots.  In 1573, he was arrested, dragged on a cart from Holyrood to the Mercat Cross and hanged.

The building was restored in the mid 19th century and opened as a museum in 1853.  Later, it was run by the Church of Scotland.

 

St.Giles Cathedral Interior

 

St.Giles Cathedral
St.Giles Cathedral Interior
St.Giles Pulpit
St.Giles Cathedral Interior
John Knox House
John Knox History of the Reformation Book Four
The Geneva Bible
John Knox
James Mossman
Mossman’s Golfsmith Tools
Knox House Interior

Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond

It was the most gorgeous day we’ve had!  Not a cloud anywhere and chilly with no breeze.  Our driver was Brian, the same driver we had for Loch Ness.  Our first stop was at George’s Square in the city center of Glasgow for a photo op and short break before heading for Loch Lomond.  Loch Lomond is a prettier lake than Loch Ness and deserves the description “on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond” as the song we all learned as children goes…  We had an hour-long boat ride and then were off to the small village of Aberfoyle, gateway to the Trossachs, for lunch.

The drive through the Trossachs included a brief stop at a scenic overlook for photos before we headed for Stirling Castle.  The Trossachs area is known as the “Highlands in Miniature” and was used by Sir Walter Scott as the setting in some of his literature, such as Rob Roy and The Lady of the Lake.

Stirling Castle was my favorite castle, barely edging out Alnwick.  The furnishings were impressive.  Not only was it well maintained, there were guides dressed in period costume, who explained what we were viewing, gave excellent historical commentary, and responded to our questions.  We had plenty of time to tour the castle and grounds.

On the way back to Edinburgh, we passed the Kelpies.  I was lucky to be on the right side of the bus to take a photo while we were in motion.  The Kelpies are 30-meter-high horse-head stainless steel-clad sculptures near the Forth and Clyde Canal.  Kelpies are mythological beasts possessing the strength and endurance of 10 horses.  The monument honors the contribution of the horse to industry and agriculture in Scotland.

 

Glasgow City Center
Glasgow City Center

 

Glasgow City Center
Trossachs View
Trossachs Bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trossachs View
Loch in the Trossachs
Loch Lomond Swan

 

 

 

 

 

Loch Lomond

 

Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond

 

Loch Lomond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loch Lomond

 

Loch Lomond Cruise Boat
Aberfoyle Lunch
Aberfoyle
Wallace Monument
Stirling Castle Entrance
Great Hall
Inner Close
Inner Close
Cemetery
Chapel Royal
Great Hall
Palace
Palace
Palace Ceiling
Palace
Queens Bedroom
Queens Bedroom
Queens Bedroom
Mary of Guise, Mary Queen of Scots mother
Queens Outer Room
Outer Room Tapestry

 

 

 

Dining Room
Dining Room

 

View from Castle
Outer Wall
Birdman Plaque
Queen Anne Garden
Queen Anne Garden

 

Queen Anne Garden
The Kelpies
Brian, Our Driver

 

St. Andrews and the Fishing Villages of Fife

It was a brisk, sunny morning as we set out on our second Rabbie’s small group tour.  This time, we were off to St. Andrews and the Fishing Villages of Fife. Our first stop was the small village of Anstruther.  We walked around and had time for a cup of tea before heading off to St. Andrews.  Our bus driver, Richard, said that any student in Scotland can attend college tuition free, but students from England and the rest of Great Britain pay for attending.  However, according to articles in The Scotsman and The Edinburgh Evening News, tuition is free for Scottish and EU students, but enrollment is limited since the government is paying.  Paying students from other countries outnumber government-supported attendees. Tuition at St. Andrews is over $20k per year and varies depending on area of study.

Once in St. Andrews, he made a quick tour of the small town to let us get our bearings and a short stop at the Old Course.  Long enough to run into the Golf Museum and purchase some Old Course souvenirs.  We then had several hours to tour the town and have lunch. I took photos of the Castle, which was just a ruin, and the Cathedral, also a ruin. I stopped to take a photo of the Northpoint Café, where Kate met Wills, according to the sign in the window.   We decided to have lunch at the Central Bar, a local pub recommended by our driver.  I had the fish and chips and Buddy had the Hot Jacket (baked potato) and a salad. We then had a few minutes to shop on Market Street before it began to rain.  We found a restaurant serving ice cream.  We thought it was going to be gelato, but evidently, gelateria doesn’t mean gelato.  We’re still having some trouble with the language!

We met the bus on South Street and headed off to Falkland, our final stop.  Falkland is a small village with a castle and church that was used in the Outlander series.  We didn’t tour the castle since the bus driver had warned everyone that there were lots of steps.  We walked around in the village, took some photos, and got some water for the return bus ride.  The weather turned very windy and much cooler, so most of our fellow travelers were ready to get into the warm bus and head back to Edinburgh.  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Anstruther Church
Anstruther Lighthouse
Anstruther
Can you find the golfers?
Anstruther
Anstruther
Anstruther
The Old Course
The Old Course Hotel
The Old Course

 

 

 

 

The Old Course #18
Chariots of Fire Beach
Golf Museum
Cafe where Kate met Wills
St. Andrews Castle
St. Andrews Castle
St. Andrews Castle

St. Andrews Cathedral

St. Andrews Cathedral
St. Andrews Cathedral
St. Andrews Cathedral
Central Bar local Pub
Central Bar sign
Market Street Fountain
Falkland Village sign

On the road to Falkland

On the road to Falkland

 

Falkland Castle
Falkland Castle
Falkland Castle
Falkland Castle
Falkland
Falkland Church
Falkland Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falkland

 

Falkland Church

Churchyard Statue

 

On the road to Edinburgh
On the road to Edinburgh

 

 

 

 

Rosslyn Chapel and Melrose Abbey

We decided to try a small group tour with Rabbie’s for our visit to Rosslyn Chapel and Melrose Abbey.  Thursday was a beautiful day and our energetic tour guide, Franziska, regaled us with stories and lively music throughout the drive.  The passengers were all from the U.S., which made for interesting conversation.  Franziska, who was from Baden-Baden, Germany, spoke English very well.

Our first stop was a photo op of the Eildon Hills from Scott’s View.  At our next stop, we took a short 15-minute walk to view a statue of William Wallace.  Back on the bus, it was a short drive to Melrose, where we had a delicious lunch at Marmions Brasserie.  We both had the special of the day, beef casserole, which wasn’t really a casserole, but a tasty portion of slow cooked beef, with pearl onions, broccoli, mashed potatoes, and green beans with a small puff pastry on top.   No matter what you call it…it was one of the best lunches we’ve had in Scotland!  We toured Melrose Abbey and Cemetery, where I took lots of photos.

One of the most interesting photos was of the grave of Braveheart’s Heart.  According to Franziska, local legend says Braveheart was really Robert the Bruce, not William Wallace as Hollywood depicted Braveheart in the movie starring Mel Gibson.   Legend says that Sir James Douglas, “Black Douglas” fought alongside Robert the Bruce.   After suffering a stroke and on his deathbed, Robert knew he would be unable to fulfill his solemn vow to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Robert asked his friend, Sir James to carry his heart there instead.  Robert died on June 7, 1329 in Dumbartonshire.  The following year, Sir James set out to fulfill his oath to the dying King.  During his journey, he was staying in the village of Teba, in Spain when it was attacked by the Moors.  Deserted by his Spanish allies, Douglas threw the heart of Robert the Bruce deep into the fighting, saying “Go first as thou hast always done.”  Douglas was killed and his body was returned to Scotland.  The heart of Robert the Bruce was carried back to Scotland by Sir William Keith of Galston and was finally laid to rest at Melrose Abbey.

 

Rosslyn Chapel was our final stop. The small, intimate chapel was filled with elaborate carvings and mysterious symbolism.  Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the chapel.  One of the local guides gave an interesting presentation of the history of the Chapel, founded in 1446, by Sir William St. Clair.  She also told the story of the filming of The DaVinci Code.  Tourism generated by the book and movie has contributed greatly to the work being done to restore and maintain the Chapel.

 

Eildon Hills
Eildon Hills
Scott’s View
Marmions Brasserie
Marmions Brasserie
Melrose Abbey
Melrose Abbey

 

Melrose Abbey
Braveheart’s Heart
SONY DSC
Melrose Abbey
Melrose Abbey

 

Melrose Abbey Cemetery
Rosslyn Chapel
Melrose Abbey

 

Melrose Abbey
Rosslyn Chapel

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Wallace Urn
William Wallace Statue

 

William Wallace Sign
Franziska, Tour Bus Driver
Rabbie’s Tour Bus

 

Holyrood Palace and Holyrood Abbey

Saturday was a beautiful, sunny day so we decided to tour Holyrood Palace.  We walked down High Street, known as the Royal Mile, past the Scottish Parliament to the Queens Gallery, where we purchased our tickets for the tour.  We toured the Palace first and couldn’t help comparing it to the grandeur of Alnwick Castle.  Holyrood has a great historical past, but could do with a little sprucing up. The Palace is the Queen’s residence when she is in Edinburgh as she was last weekend.  Of course, the public isn’t allowed to view any of the rooms used as her residence.  We visited the Abbey and the Gardens and took several photos.  Arthur’s Seat can be seen from the grounds and lots of people were taking advantage of the beautiful day to climb to the top.  You won’t find us making the climb.  Maybe in our younger days!  The Scottish Parliament building, just across from Holyrood is certainly one of the most unique government buildings in the UK.

Queens Gallery
Holyrood Entrance

 

Courtyard Entrance
Fountatin
Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Abbey
Holyrood Abbey
Holyrood Abbey
Holyrood Abbey
Holyrood Abbey

 

Holyrood Abbey

 

 

Holyrood Abbey
Holyrood Gardens
Holyrood Gardens
Climbing Arthur’s Seat

 

 

Holyrood Gardens
Arthur’s Seat
Gardens Exit
Parliament
Parliament